Something amazing often happens to a limp at the first sign of an impending vet visit. Fluffy and Fido are suddenly "healed." 

If not upon recognition of the carrier or upon being hoisted into the car, then magically, after beholding the sights, smells and sounds of their veterinarian’s establishment, the limp suddenly disappears. 

It invariably infuriates my clients. “I tell you, she’s been limping all weekend!” they say. The frustration evident on a client's face is proof enough of the claim’s veracity — as if I needed any.

After all, I can usually find the ouchy spot. And if I can’t, all evidence is not lost … it’s still a valuable piece of the puzzle we use to sort things out. X-rays might be in order, or (depending on the state of your bank account, usually) we’ll try resting the dog and have the client keep a log of past symptoms and ongoing symptoms of lameness.

But never fear, Munchausen’s-by-Proxy is not on our short list of diagnoses. In less snarky words, I’m just saying that I'm pretty sure you’re not spending $48 on an office call just for the pleasure of my company.

When working with our non-talkers, it’s critical to understand that apprehension (or flat-out fear) initiates a crusade of hormones and other fun chemicals that blunt pain and discomfort for a period of time — often for as long as the stressful stimulus lasts. In this case, for the length of time it takes to visit your vet and go home again.

That means that for most minor "ouchies" — major ones, in some cases — no evidence of pain may be the norm in a stressful hospital setting.

We’re used to that. And no, we don’t think you’re crazy when your charge fails to display an appropriate limp. Sure, if you make a habit of bringing Fluffy in every time she looks at you sideways we might start to wonder about you (we’re only human). But the vast majority of "he stopped limping in the parking lot" cases will not earn you a neurotic client designation. (Trust me, it takes a lot more than that to label you thus.)

I impart these words of wisdom not merely for the benefit of your potentially bruised ego, should Fido throw you under the bus in this manner, but because it’s also important to note that this scenario’s corollary:

Just because she’s not limping doesn’t mean there’s no pain — or that nothing serious is amiss. Limping, however occasional, intermittent, mild, or minor it may seem, is a sign of discomfort and therefore deserves your attention … and ours.

Dr. Patty Khuly